So. As I posted on Twitter and Facebook, I had a story published in the January issue of Round Up Writers Zine. The story, titled Roy and Ellen, is based on an actual event that I read of through various news sources a few years ago. (I won’t link to any of the stories that were written about it. They are not relevant and seem merely exploitive at this point.)
The actual details, the true facts (as much as we can understand truth or fact) are not, in fact, relevant to the story. I write that last sentence with some hesitation. Because — of course, obviously — those facts, whatever truth, are incredibly important for the people that were directly involved, for those whom it was not ‘an event’ or ‘a news story’ but an ongoing, horrible reality. A something that happened, a tragedy that will always be there, somewhere, lurking.
I feel a sense of post-Catholic guilt when I say that my interest in ‘the story’ or ‘the event’ or whatever we can settle on calling it, is in the set of possibilities it offers. That may sound distant or callous, but is not intended to be. Rather, I am thinking of it in terms of how, in each moment, in each tick of the clock, there exists this vast array of possibilities that present themselves. And, for each of us, each individual, only one of those contingencies comes into being.
I step off a curb and a car is speeding towards me. The car (or, more properly, the driver) is intending to turn right, directly in front of me.
In one possibility the car sees me from, say, 20m away and slows. I walk past without difficulty.
Or it is much closer, say 5m. And the driver breaks suddenly, stopping a metre or so from me, but still nowhere too close to where I am.
Or the driver does not see me at all. And I do not see the car or I misjudge its speed and it hits me. Even now there are a variety of possibilities. I am hit and tossed to the side, landing on my back or my ass and I am shaken up, bruised but otherwise am uninjured.
Or I am hit and am thrown at an odd angle, am thrown to the side and hit my head on the pavement, causing a serious head injury.
And so on. The possibilities are, truly, endless.
A ‘story’ — and event that has happened, that is reported or recalled — is one outcome. But what else could have, might have, did happen?
We can never know, from one moment to the next, what we will be presented with. What will happen to those around us. To those we love and cherish. We don’t know what they are planning or what might happen unexpectedly.
We exist in the current moment, only confident of that.